Friday, May 11, 2007

Personal Aside: Why I’m Soft on Eddie and Why I Think He’ll Beat the Rap.


The indictment of Eddie Vrdolyak on one count of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud and one count of bribery in an alleged scheme to collect kickbacks in exchange for sale of Gold Coast property means that he’s still officially innocent…and that’s okay by me. Most of the papers say this is his first indictment but that’s not true. One reason why he’s a pinwheel of color in Chicago politics is that when he was a law student he defended himself on a charge of manslaughter and beat the odds. I’m pulling for him this time as well.

Why, do you ask, am I soft on Eddie whom I’ve known for many years? First, because he is not and has never been a liberal, his demeanor has been free of self-eulogization; he’s been non-hypocritical; he presents no bluster, no bravado associated with the worst cons in the game—liberals whose eyes are raised to heaven as they pretend that they’re only interested in “serving the pee-pul.” That’s because Eddie not being a liberal is as straight-talking, as tough, as quippy as seemingly no one else in the political generation t hat has followed his. But that doesn’t mean he’s not compassionate. I’m not at liberty to tell you all the good things he’s done for people who cannot pay him back—good things he did without any hope of recompense…things he sloughs off.

Second—and you’ll have to take my word for this—because he’s an intellectual, an idealist without illusions. I’ve known him for many years, have talked with him often…including just this Monday when I visited his office on a matter that had no earthly benefit, use or relevance to him. For one thing, he’s as unlike another Eddie as it’s possible to be and I count that a great asset. This Eddie grew up in South Chicago and he hasn’t left it…hasn’t regarded himself with awe or surveyed his own greatness. His father had a tavern for fifty-one years, an immigrant from Dalmatia in Yugoslavia, the place his mother came from. Old people in the neighborhood still think of him as Pete’s boy and he’s proud of that. He went to a seminary in the first three years of high school, went to St. Joseph’s College in Renssalaer, Indiana and then to law school. Law school’s an interesting story. Eddie won a scholarship full-time to Harvard on the basis of superb grades. He turned it down in favor of a scholarship to the University of Chicago so that he could be around to tend bar for his Dad who needed him.

The other Eddie, if he had had a chance to go to Harvard, would have taken it in a minute, would have come back, never seeing his old man’s tavern again but to cite his comeuppance to his Harvard fellows with his nose up higher than it is now. As it is when that other Eddie strides up to Communion at St. Peter’s late afternoons in Lent…immaculately attired with flowing green tie and white hair that can be seen even if the lights go out… it’s like he has agreed to consult with God as a lawyer gives obligatory time to a client. Not my Eddie. Where do I get the idealist without illusions part? I have spent more than a half century talking to politicians and other types…poets, cops even some un-canonized saints…in two states and D. C. I ask them different things…things other than issues or politics because I know how most of them—not all--can twist and turn.

I once asked Eddie as we rode along in a car (him driving): what are the basic inclinations of man? Can you imagine if I asked George Ryan that…or the other Eddie…or Rod Blagojevich? Or Richard M. Daley? Or Mike Madigan? Or Emil Jones? Or Todd Stroger? Or Forrest Claypool? Or the Reverend Dick Simpson?

Eddie said, “what is this?” and looked at me. No, Eddie, I said: you’ve been around, you’ve lived: I’ll ask again—what are the basic inclinations of man?

“Well,” he said, looking out the window, “the first is to seek the good.”

What’s that?

“His highest good which is eternal happiness.”

Anything else?

“Yeah. To preserve himself in existence.”

Any more?

“Yeah, to preserve the species—that is to reproduce himself.”

Is that it?

“Almost. Then to live in community with other men.”

Is that it?

“Yeah—no, wait. To use his intellect and will to know the truth…because there is an absolute truth, not what you think is truth or what I think…to know the truth and thereby make his own decisions.”

Why are they put into human nature, Eddie?

“Huh? By God, you dumbbell!”

What you just described is known as what?

“Whatd’ye mean?”

It’s known as what?

“Now you got me.”

It’s known as Natural Law. You’re a Natural Law man, Ed!

“Of course! Enough already. We’re almost there. Shut up and let me find a parking place.”

I don’t know anything about the charges but I think that in the end…I mean in the end where we all have to end up…he’ll come out all right.

All the same, I’ll be praying for you, Eddie.


  1. John Thomas Mc GeeanMay 11, 2007 at 4:40 AM

    You said some nice things about "Fast Eddie" and it was good to hear someone say something good about him. I don't know the man, but I will take your word for it. I have always had the opinion that this man was not a phony.
    Thanks for sharing your good words.

  2. Tom,

    Though listening to Channel 7 last night, it sounded like Ed V was already convicted of some massive swindle, commissions, sales bonusses, and finders fee's are commonplace and completely legal in commerical real estate. The same fees may be illegal when doing government contracting.

    From what I have read:

    1) This looks like a private commercial transaction. Commissions and incentives are compeltely legal, and probably good business.

    2) The transaction was never completed. A lawyer discussing possible structures for a real estate transaction should surely be part of a privileged communication.

    It seems to me, that much like with Conrad Black, Fitzgerald has inserted himself into a private legal transaction to try and criminalize a common business practice.


  3. This very public man is known only to his wife, maybe his kids, and God. I never understood the Gordian knot of politics but I always enjoy the spectacle of tweedy-dust-jacket mopes, allied with radical think tanks and writing for local papers, explain what men like EV are thinking.

    Only you, Tom, and Kristen McQuery of the Daily Southtown seem to come close:,111MCQ1.article

    I hope the man walks - I mean if '40 Watt Fitz' can allow the Al Queda lads to walk-away - of course the pencil neck geeks and later-day roykos will throw the Yale on the Man's cell door in print from here until Fitz fumbles - again.

  4. I cannot imagine Rod even understanding your question...this is not a laughing matter.

  5. Word has it (I wasn't in Chicago at the time) that there were three Eddies who opposed and vexed Harold Washington until such time as he could redraw the map to elect 25. I agree that the first Eddie is a good man. I also agree with your description of the 2nd Eddie in your piece, but what do you think of the third Eddie?

  6. I have been an Eddie fan for years! His talk shows on WLS were great and I was a constant caller.

    But on one thing we can rejoice is the FLOP of the Gross Receipts Tax in the House under Madigan. Hey Fitz.... go after Gov. Blago PLEEEEEEZE

  7. Yes - Vrdolyak may be entertaining, but his honesty doesn't excuse him from responsibility for his actions.

  8. Lovie's LeatherMay 12, 2007 at 11:22 AM

    What do you think of Ray Lahood's and Mark Kirk's gang of 11?

  9. This is an intersting article.